Goal setting and growth are huge topics during this time of year. You'll hear various opinions on how to "best" approach it, such as:
-"Shoot for the moon! Set a big scary goal which will feel so good … if you accomplish it."
-"Don't bother. If you didn’t change it before, you won’t now."
-"Set a small goal, accomplish it, then set another one, building more and more momentum."
These contradictions probably are more confusing than helpful. How can we reconcile these? Let's see what works with each approach:
YES, we need to have a goal that’s big enough to matter if we accomplish it. If your life won't really change if you accomplish your goal, it’s less likely that you’ll care enough to work towards it.
YES, it’s easy to get caught up in the resolution mindset and set goals because it’s “that time of year,” and just setting a goal doesn’t mean anything if you don’t actually care about it, because you won't work towards accomplishing it.
YES, setting smaller, achievable goals to build momentum is a great approach. But where are they taking you? If you’re just setting small goals because they’re easy to accomplish, but they aren’t actually leading you somewhere you care about going, then why set them?
There’s a theme here. Did you catch it?
You have to set a goal that MATTERS to you. How?
First, identify it: What, if you accomplished it, would make you SO EXCITED? What would make your soul sing? What fires you up just thinking about it? What makes you a little nervous to think about going after it? What would elevate you to the next level? What would make you better?
Second, define it as clearly as possible: Instead of “lose weight,” maybe it’s “lose 50 lbs in support of my long-term health.” If possible, make it quantifiable so you can measure your progress by numbers. Also, set a time frame in which you’d like to accomplish your goal, long or short.
At any time in this process, if you’re not excited about what you’re setting out to do, you need to re-evaluate your WHY. You have to be excited about this. This is why so many goals are left unaccomplished and so many lives are left unchanged: it doesn't actually matter to people, or they forget their WHY.
Now, reverse engineer what success looks like. To do that, start at the end: you achieved the goal. Now think, HOW DID YOU GET THERE? Be more and more specific as you go backwards through the steps to get there.
Here's a simple example:
End: You lost 50lbs and feel great!
How did you get there?: You made lifestyle changes.
What lifestyle changes?: You changed your diet and started exercising.
What does that look like?: You started eating a primarily plant-based diet and came to group fitness classes three times per week.
Start at the end and work your way backwards.
This is where the small goals come into play. You have your big, audacious, exciting, life-changing goal ("Lose 50 lbs to feel better!") that you’re stoked to work towards. Now here's where you get to set those small, manageable goals. Plan out what each of those steps looks like moving forward, being specific and giving yourself deadlines and quantifiable measures. These smaller goals serve as stepping stones to get you there. Every time you accomplish one of these smaller goals, you know that you are closer to accomplishing your big goal. This is a key approach in personal training and programs like Ignite Your Body that really help skyrocket people to success!
Here’s a basic example of this:
By January 1st, I want to plan which 3 group fitness classes I’m going to come to each week.
By January 5th, I want to have gone to those 3 classes.
By January 6th, I want to have 1 plant-based recipe that I’m going to make this upcoming week.
On January 8th, I’m going to make the plant-based recipe.
By January 31st, I want to have my routine of training 3 times per week down and have lost 4lbs.
By February 3rd, I want to find 2 more plant-based recipes to try.
On February 4th, 6th, and 8th, I’m going to make plant-based recipes.
By February 28th, I want to have lost 8lbs.
By March 31st, I want to be making 3 plant-based meals per week and have lost 12lbs.
And so on. Define your big goal, break it into smaller goals, then do it!
All right, here's where the real secret comes in: one of the most overlooked aspects of goal-setting is to CELEBRATE your SUCCESSES and LEARN from your FAILURES.
Each time you accomplish one of your smaller goals, look back at where you started and take note of where you are that moment. Acknowledge how far you’ve come and that you’re progressing because you’re putting in the work it takes! And know that there WILL be failures along the path. There just will be. That’s NORMAL and OK, and there’s NO WAY that you would be able to learn what works best for you without other things not working.
This is your quest, and at the end, it’s going to feel so good knowing that you put in the work to accomplish what you set out to do. I wish you all the best in your journey during the New Year, and I hope 2019 is your best year yet!